Who was the 12th Apostle?
There are only twelve
Many Christian sects teach that Paul was God's chosen replacement for Judas Iscariot who betrayed Yeshua and fell from his office as one of the twelve apostles. Some even go so far as to teach that Peter was in error when he called the Messianic believers together to choose a replacement for Judas, simply because Peter's call for a replacement for Judas happened before Pentecost. They assert that Peter was 'in the flesh', out of line, and without the authority to do such a thing. God supposedly rejected their choice and instead zapped Paul for the job. Naturally, these teachers who are willing to go way out on a limb to say Peter was wrong here never consider the possibility that Peter was wrong about Paul in the passage we dealt with in the last chapter.
Thanks to the way the term apostle is used by both Paul and Luke, it has been redefined and broadened beyond twelve to include anyone who believes they are a divinely appointed messenger sent out into the world. Whether one believes that the office of apostle extends beyond the original twelve or not, it is apparent from the book of Revelation and Yeshua's own words that there are a specific twelve who are also referred to as "the apostles of the Lamb".
Now the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. Rev. 21:14
Also, Yeshua said to them;
"Assuredly I say to you, that in the regeneration, when the Son of Man sits on the throne of His Glory, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. Matt. 19:28
There were many others besides the twelve who followed Yeshua who were there and heard these words when He spoke them. Paul was not one of them! If Judas Iscariot's name is not one of the twelve apostles whose names are written on the foundations of the city, and Paul is a false apostle who presumptuously took the title "apostle of Yeshua" to himself... the question remains: who is number twelve?
Peter calls for a replacement for Judas
To answer that question we need to take another look at the meeting recorded in Acts 1 where Peter calls for a replacement for Judas. Again, notice that this event is obviously deemed necessary because of the understanding that there must be twelve apostles, no more, and no less.
And in those days Peter stood up in the midst of the disciples (altogether the number of names was about a hundred and twenty), and said, "Men and brethren, this Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit spoke before by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who became a guide to those who arrested Yeshua; for he was numbered with us and obtained a part in this ministry." ... "For it is written in the book of Psalms; 'Let his habitation be desolate, and let no one live it'; and, 'Let another take his office.' "Therefore, of these men who have accompanied us all the time that the Master, Yeshua, went in and out among us, beginning from the baptism of John to that day when He was taken up from us, one of these must become a witness with us of His resurrection." Acts 1;15-17, 20-22
The first thing we need to do is realize that we are viewing real people who think and act like we do and that Peter is very serious about filling the office with a qualified person. In a detailed manner he lays out exactly what the replacement's qualifications must be. The prospective apostle had to have accompanied the other apostles the entire time, from the time that John baptized Yeshua, all the way through to Yeshua's ascension. This was the bare minimum criteria to be met. If a prospect who met these requirements had more knowledge of Yeshua from before His baptism it would no doubt have been considered a bonus. We must keep in mind that Peter was looking for someone who would be a witness. This would require that a prospect also demonstrate a willingness to tell of what he had seen and heard, and the more willing the better. It would not be out of the question for the replacement to be more qualified in this regard than some of the remaining eleven!
The fact that Peter required the would-be apostle to have been there also fits with what Yeshua had said in Matthew as quoted above. He said, "You who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones..." The hard fact of the matter is that Paul had not been there. He didn't walk with Yeshua those three and a half years and therefore could not be considered a legitimate candidate to replace Judas as an apostle by either Peter's or Yeshua's criterion. The replacement had to have been there.
The scene in Acts continues.
And they proposed two: Joseph called Barsabas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias, And they prayed and said, "You , O Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which of these two You have chosen to take part in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas by transgression fell, that he might go to his own place." And they cast their lots, and the lot fell on Matthias. And he was numbered with the eleven apostles. Acts 1:23-26
Out of all those present, they had reduced the number of possible prospects to two. They were the best of the rest. Both were well qualified in the eyes of the eleven. They could have made the choice between the two themselves and I believe their choice would have been recognized in heaven. Yeshua had given Peter and the other apostles that much authority when He said to them;
"Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. Again I say to you that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in my name, I am there in the midst of them." Matthew 18:18-20
But they desired that God make the final choice between the two. The casting of lots to discern God's will is also not without precedence. They were very familiar with the priest's use of Urim and Thummim to determine God's will as well as the story of Jonah and the terrified sailors who cast the lot which God caused to indicate Jonah as the source of their problem. On an issue as important as determining who the twelfth apostle should be, their desire to seek God's opinion would not have gone unnoticed in heaven. They prayed and cast lots and the lot fell on Matthias. In short, the answer to the question of who the twelfth apostle is, is this man Matthias.
Who was Matthias?
Virtually nothing is known about Matthias. Aside from the fact that he must have fit Peter's criterion, (been there) we know only one thing.... his name. But I have a pet theory about this person which if proved true would answer many perplexing questions dogging scholars today. It is only a theory. The fact that it is very plausible and would answer many questions is itself the best evidence.
The Author of the mysterious Q source?!
If I were a betting man, I would lay some highly favorable odds that Matthias is the author of the renowned "Q source" for a number of reasons. "Q" is the label scholars have given to a single written common source from which the synoptic gospel writers supposedly gleaned a large portion of their information. The books of Matthew, Mark and Luke are called the "synoptic" gospels because they are a condensed outline of the events surrounding Yeshua's ministry. They are similar in so many ways it appears clear that each was condensed from the same larger written source. A perfect example of this is the story of the rich young ruler. This story is found in all three synoptic gospels. Each one contains information that the others leave out. We determine from all three that this person was rich. Matthew is the only one to tell us that he was "young". And Luke is the only gospel to tell us he was a "ruler". But no matter from which gospel it is read, it is still know as the "rich young ruler" account. To see a parallel comparison of the three accounts of the rich young ruler and how the original account in "Q" might have looked see The Rich Young Ruler Synoptic Parallel in the appendix.
Let's take a hypothetical look at what it might have been like at the time Peter called for a replacement for Judas. Remember, these are real people who act and think like we do. What if during all the time that Yeshua walked with and taught the twelve, there was among the many others who followed along, a man gifted in writing who faithfully recorded most everything that happened and what was said? I can picture him sitting in the background writing in some form of short hand Aramaic like an ancient reporter of some sort. Now when Peter calls for a replacement for Judas, his requirements are that the replacement had to both be there and be willing to tell (report) what he had seen and heard. Now as they consider the candidates and are about to make some nominations they realize that they have among their candidates a man with a lengthy and accurate written diary/record of all that was said and done. Hey! Isn't this exactly what they are looking for?
I believe that Matthias, the one on whom God caused the lot to fall, was just such a person. This may sound like a realistic but quaint theory to many at this point, but there is one more interesting bit of evidence to add to this picture. The name "Matthias" is the Greek version of the name "Matthew"! They are identical... one and the same! There were two Matthews just as there two apostles named Simon and two apostles named James. Matthew the tax collector is generally considered to be the author of the gospel of Matthew. But this is only tradition. We really don't know for sure who wrote the book because the book doesn't say. The name Matthew was associated with the earliest copies of the book and was subsequently given the name over time.
Here is what I think happened. I believe that Mathias was a gifted writer who faithfully documented the words and events surrounding Yeshua's ministry. Unlike Paul, he was there! When Peter called for a replacement for Judas, Matthias' name came up as a good candidate because he had the written record. God caused the lot to fall on him and he became the true replacement for Judas. His written record was used by many... especially the writers of the synoptic gospels... Marcus (Mark) and Luke. Some anonymous person also used Matthias' record to compose the gospel of Matthew. He translated and condensed it into the parts he deemed important and added a little of his own insight as did the others, but he didn't sign it. He only left it known that his work was taken from the record of Mathias/Matthew. Over time the tradition continued and somewhere along the line it became assumed that it was written by the apostle Matthew the tax collector. It is interesting to note that the synoptic gospels were written from the perspective of being on the outside looking in. Not from the perspective of being one of the core twelve. In the gospel of Matthew itself, Matthew the tax collector isn't even mentioned or called until chapter 9. The writer of the gospel appears to go a little out of his way to distance himself from this Matthew by saying that Yeshua, "saw a man named Matthew...". It would be a bit unusual for someone to refer to themselves this way. But on the other hand, if it were written by a different man with the same name who was on the outside looking in, it would fit perfectly.
Whether Matthias is the author of "Q" or not, he is without question the only plausible 12th apostle because he was there... thus fulfilling the requirements of both Yeshua and Peter. He is, in all probability, also the author of "Q", the source from which the three synoptic gospels writers obtained most of their information. If he is, he is not just an insignificant number filling a vacant spot, but one of the greatest apostles as far as we are concerned when it comes to whose testimony of Yeshua affects us most today. His testimony would be responsible for the bulk of three gospels. All of Paul's letters put together don't tell us as much about what Yeshua said and did as does any single chapter from these gospels. It should be easy to understand why Paul quotes Yeshua so very little. He wasn't there!
"Where possible, he (Paul) avoids quoting the teaching of Jesus, in fact even mentioning it. If we had to rely on Paul, we should not know that Jesus taught in parables, had delivered the sermon on the mount, and had taught His disciples the 'Our Father.' Even where they are specially relevant, Paul passes over the words of the Lord."